Where do birds go in winter?
The Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board is aiming to learn more about the secret winter life of the Hooded Plovers that landscape officers work to protect during the warmer months on local beaches when the birds are breeding.
Landscape officers – with the help of trained volunteers – have been surveying threatened Hooded Plovers as the weather cools down and the birds move from their breeding sites to other areas across the Peninsula, in a bid to find out how important other areas may be for Hooded Plovers during the non-breeding season.
Hooded Plovers are one of Australia’s top 20 threatened fauna species. They live on beaches across the country, including on Eyre Peninsula coastlines. With BirdLife Australia volunteers, the Board monitors key nesting territories along our coast during their breeding season which is from August to April.
The winter surveys are taking place across the Eyre Peninsula as part of the Saltmarsh Threat Abatement and Recovery (STAR) Project. STAR is delivered by the Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.
Landscape Officer Rachael Kannussaar says the winter inland surveys will help the Board to learn more about where the birds go when they are not breeding.
“We know from previous research throughout Australia that the birds can form groups of up to 30 individuals in a flock at coastal locations before they disperse back to their breeding territories from late July onwards,” says Ms Kannussaar.
“But we really want to know more about where they go across Eyre Peninsula, with a particular focus on inland lake areas.
“We undertook our first inland lake survey for Hooded Plovers two years ago with 22 birds observed at that time, including adults and juveniles. So far our completed surveys this year have shown a similar sized group at one inland lake as well as lots of smaller groups at other sites.
“It’s really interesting to observe the birds’ behaviour when they are just focused on feeding rather than on nesting, breeding and protecting their chicks.”
Board staff along with trained BirdLife Australia volunteers will survey the perimeter of each lake – including Lake Newland, Kapinnie Lakes and Sleaford Mere - and record any Hooded Plover sightings, along with any other birds that are present as well as any threats observed.
The Board is also asking the public to help with its winter survey work by letting them know if they see any Hooded Plovers flocks, especially those with leg flags on them. These are birds that have been flagged as part of BirdLife Australia’s research program.
“Re-sighting of flagged birds helps us learn more about hoodies movements between nesting seasons such as how far fledglings have dispersed from their ‘home’ beach once they leave their parents,” says Ms Kannussaar.
“We are particularly keen to hear from people who spot groups of Hooded Plovers along the coast or birds sighted inland between now and late July.
“We’d love to know where and when you saw them, how many you see, the numbers of adults and juveniles, and whether you spot any birds with leg flags. If you do spot a leg flag, it’s important to note the colour of the flag, and whether it is located on the birds’ right or left leg and also the two letters printed on the flag.”
Sightings of Hooded Plovers flocks or those with leg flags, can be reported to the Board by calling 8688 3200 or emailing EPLBAdmin@sa.gov.au.
Birds should be observed from a distance and any photos taken with a long lens.
To find out more about surveys, see our fact sheet and our Saltmarsh Threat Abatement and Recovery Project page.